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Joy, Creativity & Ancestors

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

As I sit to write this piece, the sun is shining through my window. The morning sun. The sun that keeps shifting as the days shorten. The sun that rises a bit later every morning. The sun that wakes me. The sun that nourishes me. Today’s sun feels especially good because the morning air is crisp. A felt change from the last week of 90 degree weather. The contrast of the sun warming my skin with the air cooling it. Feeling the joy of this moment as I begin this writing.

There are so many topics I considered writing about this month. Shame & guilt. The myth of white supremacy. I started writing all of them. I’ll likely finish and share them eventually but now is not the moment. What became clear to me at the end of the day on Friday’s New Moon is that this moment is calling for me to share about joy and creativity. Amidst Mercury & Mars retrograde. Amidst police brutality & anti-Blackness. Amidst global pandemic. Amidst this election season. How do we connect with our ancestral joy? How do we build & deepen into relationship with our ancestors through creativity?

In my work with folks, we traverse a lot of deep and dark places. We face into the shadow of ourselves and our ancestors. We feel deeply. This dark place, the deep emotions, the underworld is a place I’m very familiar with. Having been diagnosed with depression at 15, while experiencing intense mood swings years before that, depression was a core part of my identity for much of my life. There’s a certain degree of coziness I feel in these dark places, a comfort. My experiences of depression and the time I’ve spent in the underworld have provided me with beautiful gifts. One being the ability to hold space for folks when they’re in the dark places. To not shy away from the darkness, to face it. It informs a tremendous amount of my work.

I’m reminded of my birth chart when I think of this. I recently read Chani Nicholas’ You Were Born for This and my Moon in the 12th house describes this gift…

“Those with the Moon here may be drawn to unpacking the secrets of family, culture, and society…the Moon in the 12th house speaks to one’s experience with suffering.”

I read this and was like YES. Of course. This describes a huge piece of ancestral healing work. This piece of my chart was really informing what I originally sat down to write. So ready and willing to dive headfirst into the darkness, into “the secrets of family, culture, and society.”

But when I sat down to write on Friday it didn’t feel right. I was feeling overwhelmed, consumed by anxiety. I spent most of the day moving through it. Anxieties and overwhelm about some recent ancestral research. Anxieties and overwhelm about the beautiful changes going on in my life. Anxieties and overwhelm about the state of the world.

So I came back to another part of my birth chart. I came back to the 5th house. The 5th house is connected to children, creative projects, sex, and pleasure. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars (the ruler of my ascendant) are all in my 5th house. There’s a lot of energy here. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, sex and pleasure have often been points of trauma and despair for me. I feel the grief and resistance in my body as I write. But here I am. Coming back to this part of my chart.

Chani writes that I need to find ways to shine in the areas of “pleasure, joy, self-expression, creative projects, children, sex, sexuality, erotic energy, and romance” in regard to the Sun being in my 5th house. With Mars in my 5th house, she writes, “creative energy and how you (I) manifest it become central themes in your (my) life and major areas of importance.”

So here I am. Embodying me. Embodying my chart. This time around, focusing on joy, pleasure, and creativity.

Before I dive into building and deepening relationships with our ancestors through joy and creativity I want to name how easy it’s felt this year to enter and stay with the darkness. How challenging it’s been to move with joy and pleasure. How much of the year many of us have been spent in isolation, in grief, in overwhelm.

I also want to name that sometimes I resist joy. I resist pleasure. I resist creative expression. Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of it. Feeling that, as a white person, I deserve to spend my life in darkness. That I deserve to be punished for the harm caused by my ancestors, that I deserve to be punished for the ways in which I’ve contributed to and perpetuated white supremacy & settler colonialism. I see this in my clients. I see it in myself.

Then I’m reminded that punitive systems are rooted in white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. I’m reminded that punishing myself and my ancestors is not the same thing as holding them and myself accountable. That punishment breeds shame. That accountability breeds repair and healing.

I’m reminded that I am worthy of love. That I am worthy of pleasure. That I am worthy of joy.

I’m reminded of the work of adrienne marie brown, of her book Pleasure Activism. I’m reminded of Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic.

“That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible…” - Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

That our capacity for feeling joy is directly related to how we show up for each other, for how we show up for this moment, for how we show up for ourselves, for how we show up for collective liberation. Joy is necessary to envision the world we're creating. That experiencing joy and pleasure is not about bypassing the grief or heartache or guilt.

It’s about our capacity for feeling it all and how we can build relationships rooted within this capacity.

What does this have to do with our ancestors? There are many ways to build and deepen relationship with our ancestors. Creativity, joy, and pleasure are some of the ways. What does that look like for you? Is it through creating collage? Song? Movement? Basket weaving? Tattooing? Music? Poetry?

Creative expression invites us to speak with our ancestors in ways that go beyond language.

As we build and deepen into relationship with our ancestors, it is vital to create space to connect with them through creativity. To connect with the joy, as well as the pain. With the pleasure, as well as the grief. To connect with our capacity for feeling in relationship with our ancestors.

For me, this shows up again and again as movement and dance. When I’m in my body, moving freely, connecting with my joy, with my pleasure, creating movement I feel my ancestors moving alongside me. I used to have a lot of shame around dance. That I wasn’t a good dancer. Holding the idea so deeply rooted in these systems of oppression that I need to be “good” at something to make it worth doing.

I've been fortunate enough to dance at Hipline for over five years and I recently received a message from my ancestors that dance has been the source of much of my healing. The joy and pleasure that dancing brings, whether at Hipline or with my partner, or with my friends, is immeasurable. I hold my ancestors with me with each movement. Honoring my ancestors with my joy. Dancing with them by my side.

[dancing with Isabelle recently at Hipline]

I think of the dance and movement of my ancestors. Of the deep joy I experienced when I joined a group of Irish folks dancing at a bar while visiting Galway. I think of the workshop Marisol and I recently offered when we asked everyone to dance freely, to connect with their ancestral joy. Everyone came back with smiles. I think of the music that feeds the movement. The music of my ancestors. The music of this moment. I think of song. The voices that carry medicine. My voice that carries medicine. Of the long, ancient history of creativity that lives within my ancestral line. That creative expression is a human experience.

I think of what happens in my body when I connect with my ancestors through joy, movement, and pleasure. The cellular memory that movement activates, that remembers my people, that remembers the medicine in my blood & bones.

I think of how when we tap into the joy & pleasure of our ancestors, we tap into the ways in which we can tend to our wounds. The ways in which we care for ourselves, each other, and the collective. How joy and pleasure help us heal. How when we're rooted in our ancestry, embodying our capacity for feeling, we're capable of our wildest dreams. For ourselves. For our families. For the collective.

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